The final win of 2018 was the most dramatic of the season.
Grenny Cumana spent the first half of the year without a spot on a full-season roster, held back in Extended Spring Training until a chance arose in Clearwater in early June. Cumana had played all of 2017 as an infielder for Clearwater, and had appeared in only 11 games in the outfield in five professional seasons, but embraced the opportunity to serve as a left-fielder for the Threshers during the second half.
Cumana found himself manning left in game one of the FSL North division series on September 4, when the Threshers had seen a 6-2 lead slip through their grasp as Daytona rallied to tie it in the eighth inning. With the go-ahead run at second, Stuart Fairchild singled through the left side, sending Alfredo Rodriguez around third.
Cumana came up firing, and nailed Rodriguez at the plate with a perfect one-hop throw, a do-or-die play that preserved the 6-6 tie.
In the bottom half, Cumana stepped to the plate to lead off. The 5'5" infielder-turned-outfielder - who had just six home runs in his professional career - worked a six-pitch at-bat and hooked a shot down the left field line, clearing the fence for a dramatic, go-ahead home run that proved to be the game-winner in Clearwater's first playoff victory in 11 years.
Although the Threshers came up four wins short of a Florida State League Championship in 2018, Clearwater emerged as the second-half champions in the FSL North and earned its first playoff victory since September 11, 2007.
The 2018 Clearwater Threshers set records for most wins in a month (22-9 in August) and most wins in a half (45-24, second half) dating back to 2004, when the franchise moved to its current location and became known as the Threshers.
The first half was highlighted by one of the top offenses in the Florida State League, featuring the emergence of Phillies 2018 Paul Owens Award winner Austin Listi, the powerful bat of Darick Hall, former first round draft pick Adam Haseley, and 2018 Florida State League Player of the Year Jose Pujols.
A 17th round pick out of Dallas Baptist a year ago, Listi batted .344/.453/.560 with nine homers in an All-Star first half, earning Player of the Week honors on June 17. Listi, 24, was promoted to Double-A Reading the following day, and went on to hit .281 with nine homers in the Eastern League.
Hall, a former Dallas Baptist teammate of Listi's, provided plenty of pop for the Threshers before making the move up to Reading on June 1. Following up an MVP season in the South Atlantic League in 2017, Hall blasted a combined 26 home runs this year, including 11 in 48 games for Clearwater.
Haseley was a consistent force in his first full professional season, batting .300 for Clearwater in 79 games before earning the bump up to Reading on July 10. The eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft out of the University of Virginia, Haseley homered twice in his final five games for Clearwater and hit six more with Reading, finishing with a .305 average and 11 homers combined between the two levels.
Pujols was the league's breakout star in 2018.
A year after batting .194 with eight homers in 90 games for Clearwater, the outfielder emerged as the Florida State League Player of the Year in 2018 after finishing tied for third in the league in average (.301) and second in slugging percentage (.523), while blasting 18 homers and driving in 58 runs in 95 games.
Six Threshers were named to the 2018 FSL North All-Star roster, representing Clearwater in the league's midsummer classic on June 16 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Bailey Falter and Jakob Hernandez each tossed a scoreless inning, while Arquimedes Gamboa earned the starting nod at short and Listi knocked in three runs to help lift the North to a 5-0 win. Sixto Sanchez and Hall were also named to the All-Star squad but did not attend, as Sanchez was injured, and Hall promoted to Reading.
Clearwater opened the second half on a tear, winning six straight on the way to a 9-3 start. With a rotation featuring Adonis Medina, Mauricio Llovera, Bailey Falter, David Parkinson, Alejandro Requena, and Ramon Rosso, Threshers pitching dominated the late stages of the season.
Clearwater's ERA in the month of August was a league-best 2.13 - nearly a run lower than any other team in the FSL. After posting a 4.24 ERA in the first half, the Threshers put up a sparkling 2.98 ERA in the second half.
Jonathan Hennigan and Addison Russ provided an exponential boost out of the bullpen. Hennigan did not allow a run in his first 10 appearances after the southpaw debuted on July 20, and finished with a 1.53 ERA in 15 games. Russ locked down 14 saves in 15 tries - good for third-most in the league - while posting a 1.69 ERA in 29 games.
Clearwater accomplished a rare feat on August 6 in game two of a doubleheader at Tampa.
The Threshers were no-hit by the Tampa Tarpons, but won the ballgame, 1-0 in eight innings, becoming the first Florida State League team in nearly 26 years to win a game in which they were held hitless. The last occurrence in the FSL was in fact the Clearwater Phillies on August 23, 1992, as part of a double no-hitter in which the Phillies managed to defeat Scott Bakkum and the Winter Haven Red Sox, 1-0.
Per the new extra-inning rule - as it was a doubleheader, the game was originally slated for seven innings - Luke Williams started the eighth inning at second base. After advancing to third on an error, Williams scored on Daniel Brito's grounder to first for the only run of the night.
Off the field, the Threshers unleashed the new Dog Days of Summer promotion, where fans were encouraged to bring their dogs out to the ballpark during every Sunday home game. Dog tickets were available for six dollars, and proceeds from each dog ticket sold benefitted a local pet charity.
This season also featured the debut of What Could Have Been Night. On August 24, the Threshers became the Clearwater Beach Dogs, with specialty jerseys, hats, merchandise, and food items for one night only, including lobster mac & cheese hotdogs, bacon-wrapped hotdogs with grilled pineapple, and drinks such as margaritas and rum runners with a popsicle.
Spectrum Field welcomed 181,686 fans in 2018, as the Threshers achieved the league's highest attendance for the eighth consecutive year. July 3rd's stunning fireworks display drew the largest crowd of the season, as 9,857 witnessed a 3-2 Threshers win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
From a dominant second half to a playoff berth, a comeback story to a heroic performance, and from the Dog Days to the Beach Dogs, 2018 packed in the excitement at Spectrum Field.
The 2019 season is set to kick off on April 4.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.